DePauw Athletics Opts To Pursue Winter Sports Competition Outside Of NCAC

(Photo provided by Katherine Douglas)

DePauw Athletics has opted to pursue competition opportunities for winter sports outside of the North Coast Athletic Conference. 

Stevie Baker-Watson, associate vice president for campus wellness and athletic director, said in an email sent Friday that they “don’t take this charge lightly and will work with the health and safety group from both the NCAC and DePauw to determine the path forward.

This announcement comes along with the news that the NCAC has cancelled the regular season and conference championships for all winter sports. The NCAC also announced that no student-athlete may return to campus for athletic practices held between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Baker-Watson did not say whether this would be true for DePauw winter athletes. 

In a Zoom webinar town hall meeting on Friday at 5:15 p.m., Baker-Watson, President White and Alan Hill, vice president of student academic life and dean of students, met with student-athletes to answer questions about DePauw’s response and plan for all student-athletes. 

According to White, there will be flexibility for each individual campus within the NCAC to determine whether they want to compete or not in the upcoming winter sports season. White said that many schools will have made their decision tonight.

Baker-Watson said that of the schools that chose to compete, DePauw will be making decisions in regard to the safety of playing them, by examining their Covid measures and cases. 

At the end of the town hall meeting, White added that no decision has been made regarding the status of the 2020 fall sports season, despite conversations surrounding it being moved to the spring. 

On Friday NCAC announced their decision to cancel winter play and competition, including conference championships. This cancelation is in effect for all teams that have NCAC sponsored winter seasons including men and women’s basketball, men and women’s indoor track and field, men and women’s swimming, and men and women’s tennis. 

A number of questions were addressed and answered during the 35 minute zoom Q&A. 

Will there be out-of-state competition?

White said that teams will not be driving more than 4 to 5 hours for competition or staying overnight.Certain states will not be accessible due to travel regulations. For example, Indiana is on the 14 day quarantine list for Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania. In addition to this, out-of-state competition will vary by team. 

If teams do travel, will everyone on the team be able to travel? 

There are still a lot of things that need to be learned about mitigating risk while traveling, Stevie-Baker said. Although Baker-Watson emphasized her desire to allow all students to compete, she emphasized the importance of safe travel accommodations. 

All athletes and coaches will be required to pass a screening test before entry to the bus and will need to wear a mask the entirety of the ride. 

Can DePauw compete against schools outside of the NCAA Division III? 

The short answer to this question is yes. “We can play other schools in other divisions as long as they want to play against us and are following health and safety guidelines,” Baker-Watson said. 

Baker-Watson added that the athletic department and administration has been in contact with their Indiana colleagues to address how other campuses are mitigating risk. 

Is there any chance winter sports have a shortened season in spring? 

According to Baker-Watson, the end of the sports season is typically the conference championship. However, teams are allowed to participate in non-championship competition up until the date of the NCAA championship, so, there could be overlap into the spring sports season. Baker-Watson mentioned the possibility of teams that do not make the conference cut participating in an extra competition between conference and nationals. 

“All of us are committed to turning over every rock in this situation,” Baker-Watson said. “But just because we can doesn't mean that we always should.” 

How will this impact eligibility?

Baker-Watson will be sending out more information regarding eligibility. She did say that if an athlete plays in more than 50% of competitions they will lose a season of participation. DIII eligibility starts as soon as athletes are enrolled as a full-time student, they have the subsequent 10 semesters to complete their four seasons. Due to this, athletes who choose not to compete this season but are enrolled as full-time students will not receive an extra season of eligibility.

Can families come and watch home games if they follow safety guidelines?

No decision has been made yet, according to White. However, she emphasized that they will be working closely with the COVID-19 team to make this decision.

Will there be opportunities for JV competitions? 

If there are other JV teams present themselves, there may be an opportunity for DePauw’s JV teams to compete against them, according to Baker-Watson. She also mentioned the possibility of poding athletes into groups to minimize unnecessary exposure. This may include naming the JV and varsity teams at the beginning of the season, and keeping these groups static throughout practice and competition. Once again, this will vary by team. 

Will student athletes be able to move in prior to classes starting?

Athlete move-in has not been determined yet. However, since DePauw will be pursuing competition in the winter, this will require student-athletes to return early, according to Baker-Watson. 

President White added that the COVID-19 Task Force is still working out the details of move-in and determining who gets priority.